In the two years since the infamous military intervention in Zimbabwe that is still a subject of debate over whether or not it was a coup, many Zimbabweans are tearing into President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s legacy, some arguing the situation was better under former late President Robert Mugabe.
Among them is Jeff Chaitezvi, a civic society leader based in Harare.
“I can say Mugabe was better than Mnangagwa, because Mugabe used to respect some fundamentals, human rights fundamentals, also, he was not that tough than Mnangagwa.”
Despite Major General Sibusiso Moyo’s televised assurance to the nation on November 2017 that what happened was “not a military takeover of government,” many in Zimbabwe remain unconvinced, pointing to the appointment of former army commander General Constatino Chiwenga as vice president, Moyo’s appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Air Marshal Perence Shiri as Minister of Agriculture, as well as incidents like the post-election killing of civilians by soldiers, and other restrictions by government.
Chaitezvi said Mnangagwa has fallen short of his promise to be better than Mugabe, who died in early September at the age of 95, including improving the economy.
“The suppression of essential human rights, one, the August 1 killings, January uprising, even the suppression of demonstrations, especially the 16th August demonstrations, and also there are some fundamentals, economic fundamentals that Mnangagwa is failing to follow – the issue of banning the US dollar, introduction of bond, failing to come up with economic solution to stop the price hikes of basics, and also another issue, Mnangagwa’s legitimacy issue, the July 30th election.”
Bekezela Gumbo, an independent political and economic commentator based in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, also argues that the situation has worsened under President Mnangagwa, when compared to Mugabe who ruled the country for 37-years and was forced to resign on the basis that he was failing to lead.
“I use four basic indicators. The first is the Real GDP Growth which deteriorated during Mnangagwa’s time compared to during Robert Mugabe’s time. We also use the Corruption Perception Index which has not changed to today, which shows that he’s failing to do anything better than his predecessor. We also use the Consumer Price Inflation indicators – they all show that they have been actually worsening at the moment, compared to what was there during Robert Mugabe’s time. We can mention many other things, you can talk about the salaries of public servants you can see that they have been grossly eroded by the government compared to what was there during Robert Mugabe’s time.”
In response to the barrage of attacks against his leadership and commitment to democracy, Mnangagwa has argued that he has opened democratic space in the country, and done his best to grow the economy, which he says is compromised by the targeted sanctions imposed on some Zanu PF officials by the United States and the European Union.
Speaking in Mnangagwa’s defence, legislator and member of the ruling Zanu-PF Kindness Paradza, said Mnangagwa is doing his best to meet the expectations of his citizens and also the international community.
Paradza, who chairs the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, said Mnangagwa is still committed to resolving the post-election violence recommendations set by the Commission of Inquiry led by former South African President Kgalema Mothlante, and the question of legitimacy.
“Currently we’ve involved ourselves in the law reforms, political reforms, economic reforms, we are involved in that, also electoral reforms. And also the president has also put in place a ministerial committee to deal with the Motlanthe report, the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission report as well as the observer missions reports, AU observer missions and others. So we are saying we want to exhaust those avenues.”
Not many are buying into the rhetoric by Mnangagwa or his colleagues in government or the party that things are getting better, given ongoing strikes by civil servants including teachers, and more currently doctors, who have not shown up for work for more than two months, due to incapacitation caused by poor salaries and working conditions.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya says the new dispensation promised by Mnangagwa has resulted in pain and suffering for the country’s citizens.
“President Mnangagwa has gone through two years of non-delivery. He has made promises, quarter, year after year. Democratic space has shrunk and we yearn for real dispensation, a new dispensation. Things are looking grim for citizens. We think about Christmas, we think about school openings and we are filled with tribulation, because Mnangagwa’s two-year reign have yielded nothing except turmoil and trouble for the people of this land.”
Whatever failure that has been associated with Mnangagwa’s leaderships, many of his party members and supporters argue it has not been for lack of trying.
Believe Gaule, a former Senator, says Mnangagwa has achieved a lot, including ending corruption, which has resulted in the establishment of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission that has made some high level arrests, with more pending.
“Mnangagwa’s government is fighting very hard to eradicate corruption, and also it has removed fuel subsidies, and it has dismantled the agricultural model that was there and replaced it with the private sector funding smart agriculture. Also these other things that have been achieved by this same government on the other side, especially on mining, a lot has been done.”
As the debate continues over whether or not Mnangagwa’s government is making progress, many Zimbabweans are still waiting anxiously for the country to regain its old glory, and become what Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo indicated earlier in the year.
“Zimbabwe has been a secret which has been well kept by Africa and it is just being unveiled.”